Lubbock, Texas — It was neither pretty, nor perfect.
But Nebraska's work during a 42-16 win Thursday night over Texas Tech was good enough to keep the nation's top-ranked team undefeated at 2-0.
"We did a job tonight, but that was about it," NU Coach Tom Osborne said after his team used back-to-back 82-yard touchdown drives to blunt a third-quarter rally that brought Tech (1-1) within five points. "We played good football, but not inspired football."
As for whether it was good enough to keep Nebraska No. 1, Osborne indicated that he didn't care.
After admitting that he voted Florida No. 1 on his coaches' poll ballot last week, he said he hoped the struggle with Tech might cool some of the No. 1 fever.
"I think people have gotten awfully excited awfully fast," Osborne said. "I've been real concerned about that. I can't seem to settle them down. Maybe we can settle them down on the field.
"We're very mortal. We have a good football team. But we've got a long way to go and a lot of things to prove."
Nebraska proved to 32,768 fans at Jones Stadium that it can run the ball. The Huskers' 524 rushing yards was the most since gaining 529 in a 1991 victory over Colorado State.
I-back Lawrence Phillips ran for a career-high 175 yards in 19 carries and touchdowns of 56 and 2 yards. Fullback Cory Schlesinger ran for a career-high 84 yards in six carries. Quarterback Tommie Frazier ran for 84 yards in 13 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that matched the longest of his career.
The passing wasn't as pretty. Frazier and backup Brook Berringer were 5 of 17 for 88 yards with one interception.
"We need to throw and catch better," Osborne said. "When we have as many g uys running loose as we did, we've got to capitalize. "
Defensively, the Huskers gave up their first points of the season. But arguable calls on a 43-yard pass completion and a pass interference call near the end zone kept Tech drives alive that produced its first nine points.
Osborne said the biggest negative on defense was losing starting free safety Mike Minter with a torn knee ligament.
"There are several guys we can't afford to lose," he said. "Mike definitely was one of them."
Minter's injury occurred late in the third quarter, after a wild sequence of possesions that turned the game towards Nebraska.
Texas Tech, down 14-3 at halftime, brought a roar from the crowd by taking the second-half kickoff and driving 80 yards for a touchdown.
Quarterback Zebbie Lethridge was the star of the march with two 18-yard scrambles and a 16-yard pass to split end Field Scovell.
On third-and-10 at the NU 28, Husker cornerback Tyrone Williams was called for interference on a pass that Nebraska coaches argued was uncatchable. But Tech got the call and the ball at the 14.
"I don't know what they called," Williams said. "We were both running and then we both fell down. And the ball was over us. "
Three plays later, Lethridge bootlegged left and found tight end Scott Aylor with a 6-yard touchdown pass with 12:33 to go in the third quarter. On the two-point conversion, Lethridge was dumped after bobbling the snap, keeping the score 14-9.
Osborne said there was no panic at the time.
"I thought we'd win the game," he said. "But I realized that if we dropped the ball, made a bad play or did something crazy that we could get in trouble."
None of the above happened during two straight Nebraska touchdown drives of 82 yards that quickly quieted the crowd.
Nebraska ran right back down the field on the shoulders of Schlesinger and Phillips.
Schlesinger keyed the first march with runs of 41 and 24 yards. Phillips capped the eight-play drive with a 2-yard run, and Tom Sieler's extra point put NU up 21-9 with 9:01 left in the third quarter.
Frazier said Tech's defensive alignment led to Schlesinger's success.
"They were trying to focus on our option game," he said. "So we decided to runup the middle on them. "
Tech was forced to punt after two first downs, which left NU at its 18.
Phillips ran for 20 yards on first down, fullback Jeff Makovicka got 6 on the next play, then Phillips sprinted left on a sweep, cut up the middle and finished with a career-long 56-yard touchdown run. That put Nebraska ahead 28-9 with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
Frazier said the third-quarter surge was no surprise, even though Nebraska had failed to score on three second-quarter marches into Tech territory.
"As we left the locker room at half," Frazier said,"I went to my linemen and said we're going to explode. We were going to put it in on the next two series.
"The defense was a little shaky at times. But they can't play the whole game perfectly."
In the fourth quarter, the Huskers got a 35-yard touchdown pass from Frazier to tight end Eric Alford and a 30-yard touchdown run from I-back Clinton Childs.
Osborne said he was trying to keep wingback Abdul Muhammad keep a string of consecutive games with at least one reception alive when he called the pass that was intercepted midwaty through the fourth quarter. Muhammad didn't get another chance.
Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, whose team scared Nebraska in the third quarter of a 50-17 loss last year in Lincoln, said coming close again was little consolation.
"It's disheartening to be in there and then lose it," he said. "But they have a great football team. "
"They've got triple jeopardy. Everywhere you look they have a tremendous player coming at you. I don't know if I've ever seen a team stronger or better prepared. "
Nebraska looked ready to take charge from the beginning by fielding the opening kickoff and romping 78 yards in six plays for a touchdown.
Phillips' 9-yard catch and 9-yard run led to two first downs and got NU to its 42. Quarterback Tommie Frazier then slightly overthrew a wide-open Reggie Baul at the Tech 40.
But Frazier came back on the next play to roll right on the option, cut up near the sideline and race 58 yards for a touchdown. Sieler's extra point put the Huskers ahead 7-0 with 12:59 left in the first quarter.
On its second possession, Nebraska gambled and lost on a fourth-and-one play at its own 46 as Tech linebacker Zach Thomas rattled Phillips for no gain.
But his success on that play didn't diminish his opinion of Nebraska.
"Those guys can really move. That's what makes them a great team. "
Two series later, Nebraska boosted its lead to 14-0 with a 15-play drive that lasted 5:02.
Frazier started the season's longest TD march with runs of 9 and 5 yards. Phillips added back-to-back 7-yard runs. A 14-yard pass from Frazier to Baul got Nebraska near midfield.
After two more first downs, Frazier found Phillips with a swing pass out of the shotgun formation. Phillips bolted 24 yards to the Tech 3. On the next play, Frazier went left on the option to score with 13:13 left in the half, and Sieler made the PAT.
Tech bounced back to score the first points of the season against Nebraska.
The Red Raiders used one big play to get in range-a 43-yard bomb from Darden to Scovell, who got behind NU's Williams at the Husker 37. When the Blackshirts stiffened at the 32, Jon Davis kicked a 49-yard field goal to bring Tech within 11 points at 14-3 with 10:43 left in the half.
TV replays indicated that the ball may have been dropped, which Williams said he told officials about with no success.
When the blackshirts stiffened at the 32, Jon Davis kicked a 49-yard field goal to bring Tech within 11 points at 14-3 with 10:43 left in the half.
Nebraska appeared ready to retaliate when No. 2 I-back Damon Benning took the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the Tech 42. Benning then ran for 11 yards and got 5 added on because of a face-mask penalty to get NU to the Tech 23.
But three plays later, Benning dropped a pass from Frazier. That led to Darin Erstad's first career field-goal attempt. His 42-yard try was wide left, keeping the score 14-3 with 8:19 to go.
The Husker defense created a scoring chance five plays later when backup free safety Tony Veland intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards to the Tech 33.
After three plays produced just 1 yard, Erstad tried a 49-yard field goal. But he was wide left again with 6:06 left in the half.
Osborne said Nebraska's 10-day layoff from its season opening win over West Virginia may have contributed to the sluggish play.
"It looks like the layoff took a little edge off," he said. "Having that much time off early in the season, we probably weren't as sharp as we should have been. "
|Yards per carry||3.5||8.3|
Nebraska is 7-4 all-time against Texas Tech.
|West Virginia||Aug. 28|
|Texas Tech||Sept. 8|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Oct. 15|
|Iowa State||Nov. 12|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 1|
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